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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Gov. Walker signed 58 bills into law Wednesday

Wisconsin has 58 new laws today, after Governor Scott Walker signed them yesterday.  The Republican Walker held a ceremony in Milwaukee to highlight expansions of three current laws to protect victims of domestic violence.  One of the bills tightens up the legal process to make sure those under temporary restraining orders surrender their weapons.  The governor quietly signed the other 55 measures in his office -- including one which makes it against the law to transfer children to non-relatives without going through the government's adoption process.  That was after Reuters reported on couples using Internet forums to find new parents for their kids.  The stories included a Manitowoc County couple who adopted a girl from Liberia, and later gave her away to an Illinois couple without knowing that the mother had her biological children taken away a number of years earlier.  Also yesterday, Walker signed bills to allow the use of a marijuana oil extract to help children with repeated seizures -- allowing more jail inmates to be strip-searched -- letting the U-W perform classified research for the first time in four decades -- and legalizing rubber-duck races as raffles for charity fund-raisers.


A new report shows that Tom Barrett's campaign fund forfeited 20-thousand dollars, for taking too much from special interests in his 2012 recall campaign for governor.  As part of a settlement with the Government Accountability Board, the campaign gave the money to Barrett's Earn and Learn program, which provides summer jobs to Milwaukee teens.  Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor, lost by seven percentage points to the Republican Walker in the recall vote.  It was Barrett's second straight bid to give the executive branch back to the Democrats.  State law limited gubernatorial candidates to just over 700-thousand dollars after the recall contest had been scheduled.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the Barrett camp received almost 721-thousand, and political adviser Patrick Guarasci called it quote, "an error made completely by accident."  He blamed the mistake on the intensity of the recall drive against Walker.  Guarasci called it a year-long campaign that was waged in a matter of weeks.  The Journal Sentinel said the settlement was mentioned in a court filing connected with a John Doe probe into alleged illegal campaign activities involving Republicans and outside groups in the recall contests.


More than a foot of snow in far northwest Wisconsin should start melting rapidly by mid-to-late morning.  And by Saturday, most of it could become puddles with highs in the 50's-and-60's expected.  For now, though, the National Weather Service still predicts up to 18 inches of heavy wet snow in the Superior and Spooner regions.  The vast majority of it has fallen by now, and the final remnants of the storm should head east out of Wisconsin by late morning.  Grantsburg in Burnett County had 13-and-a-half inches and counting by eight last night.  Drummond in Bayfield County had 12-and-a-half inches by the overnight, and eleven inches fell at Superior.  To the east, Rhinelander had almost five inches.  Lac du Flambeau had seven inches and counting by mid-evening. A half-foot of snow fell as far south as Barron County.  Most other areas had lesser snows, a rain-snow mix, or just rain.  Winter storm warnings remain in effect until 11 a-m in far northern Wisconsin.  Forecasters say partial clearing should create a big snow-melt in the north today, along with rain that's in the forecast for Ashland and Rhinelander.  Today's highs will be in the 30's-and-40's in the north, and in the 50's in southern Wisconsin under partly-to-mostly cloudy skies.


A group that represents Wisconsin utility customers is suing state regulators.  The Citizens Utility Board wants a judge to throw out a decision made in January by the Public Service Commission, to have We Energies' electric customers pay for a Milwaukee power plant's conversion from coal to natural gas.  The plant provides steam for customers in downtown Milwaukee, including Marquette University and the Aurora Sinai Medical Center.  The citizens board, or CUB, filed its suit in Dane County.  It says all of We Energies' electric customers should not have to help pay for the 80-million dollar power plant conversion -- and only the ones that buy the plant's steam should have to foot the bill.  CUB acting director Kira Loehr says We Energies' steam customers are only paying eight-percent of the tab.  The group also said the plant's electricity would cost 185-million dollars more than the market price for power during the plant's remaining life.  We Energies is not commenting on the new lawsuit.  The company previously said the conversion would eventually save money because it would cost up to 180-million dollars to improve the electric transmission network if the plant were to shut down.  


A frozen body found on a remote beach in western Michigan has been identified as a man from Sheboygan who's been missing since last fall.  Three bicyclists found Allen Townsend's body on Tuesday night, along the Lake Michigan shoreline north of Ludington.  The 48-year-old Townsend was last seen in November of 2013.  Authorities believe his body drifted from Wisconsin across the lake to Michigan.  Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole said the body might have been on the beach for months, and foul play is not suspected.  An autopsy has been performed, but the cause of Townsend's death has not been determined.


Up to 15 inches of heavy wet snow is knocking out power in Wisconsin's Northwoods.  Over two-thousand customers were in the dark as of six this morning.  About 15-hundred of those are Wisconsin Public Service customers -- mostly in the Hazelhurst, Lake Tomahawk, Arbor Vitae, and Presque Isle regions.  We Energies reports about 175 customers out in the Phelps area of Vilas County.  It was still snowing in most of far northern Wisconsin at six o'clock.  According to updated snow totals, 15 inches fell at Minong in Washburn County, and 14 at Highbridge in Ashland County.  Thirteen inches fell at Lac du Flambeau, 10 at Phillips, and almost seven at Rhinelander.   Winter storm warnings continue in the region until 11 a-m.  Forecasters say clearing skies should quickly melt a lot of the snow.  Parts of the north will have highs in the 40's today.


A 17-year-old boy was missing early today, after he went canoeing on the Milwaukee River between Cedarburg and Grafton.  The youngster is from Cedarburg.  Ozaukee County authorities said he last had contact with his mother around eight o'clock last night.  An aircraft joined water rescuers in searching for the boy.


Two state government agencies are teaming up to get unused medicines out of people's homes -- so those who abuse prescription drugs cannot get to those pills.  The Justice Department and the D-N-R are taking part in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday April 26th.  People can drop off their old and unused medicines that day at a number of collection sites throughout Wisconsin.  State Attorney General J-B Van Hollen says prescription drug addictions often lead to heroin abuse -- and the take-back day gives everybody a chance to fight back against heroin.  D-N-R Secretary Cathy Stepp says the collections will allow fewer drugs to be flushed into water systems or thrown into landfills -- thus reducing environmental harm.